Thursday, January 18, 2001


'Tother day I hopped in the car and switched on the world-music show: I came in at the tail-end of the melody—Latin-influenced jazz-pop, layers of light percussion and bouncy strums—and into the rhythmic change-up. Then a flamencoid nylon-string solo, flurries of notes, almost faster than I could hear, navigating the tricky odd meters with taste and grace. By now I'm trying to peg the artist: Al DiMeola? Maybe Strunz & Farah? Then BANG! The solo's over and we're back into the A-section. The melody comes in, doubled on a Coral electric sitar and a distinctive synth sound—breathy, somewhere between vox humana and a kettle-whistle—that I always associate with Lyle Mays: Jesus, that's not Pat Metheny, is it?

Then the tune ends, and the student DJ back-announces it as being by Steve Stevens.

Steve Stevens...?

The runty beezer with the black leather and the nail varnish, the platform shoes and the shock-mop, dry-humping the stage alongside Billy Idol while making his guitar sound like robots and ray-guns? The weedy little Fripp-freak who brought a sci-fi edge to Idol's first three albums, and without whose influence said Billy Idol slowly faded back into much-deserved obscurity? That Steve Stevens?

Well... yes.

Andy Summers, whose work with the Police made him perhaps the most inventive pop guitarist of the 1980s, edged slowly towards jazz in his solo career—first cutting an abysmal vocal album, the moving through instrumental pop and ambient/New Age noodling before finally saying Fuck it and releasing the albums of Mingus and Monk tunes he's wanted to do for years.

Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. He lived in the Jazz age.

Oddly enough, it seems to me that another sort of Jazz Age is the second act of many American lives.

No comments: